Travel Notes from Koh Tao, Thailand

ALL-TIME FAVORITE POST FROM 2010 RE-BLOGGED: By the time you leave Koh Tao, i know that you are now feeling really sad to leave one of the most beautiful places on earth. Don't worry! With too many islands down South of Thailand, i am pretty sure you will have an equally grand time in a deserted island somewhere. I left in the middle of afternoon. I've researched prior that numerous ferries and boat trips that leave for the other islands like Koh Pha Ngan and Koh Samui leave from Koh Tao. At the same time, for those who are ending their journey, there's package that will take you from this island straight to Bangkok on your way back home.

This is one of the scene you will see at the ferry port. There's too many people waiting for their journey somewhere. I waited for my ferry to Koh Pha Ngan from Koh Tao. The ticket costs less than i thought it would be. As i was smoking my cigarette and drinking my cola, i opened my guidebook to find out where to stay in Koh Pha Ngan. After staying in Haad rin for a long time last time for the full moon party, i wanted to discover the other beaches and attractions there in hippie Pha Ngan.

I asked a kind gentleman i don't know from where. He bummed for a ciggie, and referred us to the greater beaches of north, east and west. He was referring to the two awesome beaches up north. You need to ride a water taxi going to the beach; less people, less amenities, just pure nature. I kind of liked the idea. But with time and money pressured, I had to forgo the suggestion and go somewhere else.

Waiting for the ferry to arrive gives you enough time to adjust yourself and keep cool. Leaving is particularly shitty as always, so the waiting time gives you the opportunity and go back realizing how it was so amazing to actually roam around Koh Tao.

Here you can see the price index for the different trips you might book onwards from Koh Tao. I must say not a very bad price at all. Somehow it is cheaper to travel from here to the other islands than taking it from somewhere else.

As i leave Koh Tao and head out to Koh Pha Ngan, there's one thing i realized, "Sometimes, you need to leave a place you really like because missing it really warms your heart."

So, How Beautiful Really is Subic Beach in Sorsogon, Philippines?

You won't believe that i drafted this post 6 years ago. This has been sitting on my blog post list the whole time. After clicking on it, i realized how amazing Subic Beach really is. Back then, i only use point and shoot, and the megapixel count isn't as high as the the one in my camera now. 

The trip to Subic Beach wasn't planned. I flew to Catarman in Northern Samar, eager to explore Biri. Unfortunately, the trip there pushed thru with mishaps. And up until now, i vow never to return again. A ferry ride away plus a smaller boat crossing San Bernardino Straight leads you to this island. 

Whenever people ask me about the most beautiful beach that i've been to, i always think Subic Beach is on top of my list. What makes this place extraordinarily beautiful is that the sand is indeed pink, because of crushed red corals. And the water, is divinely green. Top it all off, there's no soul in sight. 

Now i say, you really don't need a fancy camera nor superb photography knowledge or experience to take really good photos. Because what makes a good photo beautiful is subjective. I consider this particular photo beautiful because i shot this photo, and it was taken at the most beautiful time of the day.

Others may say that they know of more beautiful beaches. I cannot contest that. To each his own. But mine really is Subic Beach. 

The other side of the island is totally unspoilt. 

And the only structure you can find in there is a small hut where the caretaker lives. If there have been recent developments there, please let me know. 6 years ago, there was no electricity there, too.

That's my home for a few days; that red tent pitched with the help of my boatman. 

Apart from me, my boatman and the caretaker, this dog was the only other soul living on this island. 

You don't need to go too far to swim. Anywhere is always a good spot to swim in Subic Beach. 

6 years younger and about 60 pounds lighter, that's me

A family from the neighboring island came by to relax one afternoon

Bangkok, Thailand: Some Things You Can't Forget

ALL-TIME FAVORITE POST FROM 2008 RE-BLOGGED: So there's a lot i cannot forget about Bangkok or BKK as the Thai girl i once met wants Bangkok to be called. It's such a big city with so many happenings going on and so many things to experience -- day or night. I may need to start a blog about it, just Bangkok. But a good 'ol friend of mine told me last night "you cannot get attached to a place so much."

It's just how travelers do it; embrace the culture, navigate the destination, pack up and go!

Because if you do get attached and get sentimental about the people, the places, the events, you will be missing some more unexplored territories waiting for you to conquer and to experience. But as they say, the nature of travelers is to tell amazing stories of their journey -- how wonderful it is to travel and visit a place they want to call their new home away from home.

Don't get me wrong. I'm not hard as stone. I had my share of sad goodbyes to this wonderful country (more on that later on), and Bangkok is a definite come back place for me, hopefully in Ferbruary when i continue my backpacking trip across South East Asia. I'll start in BKK so i can make my way up north or south first. That is tentative for now. I'll think it over the holidays. 

As i was trying to get some sleep last night, i asked myself what are the things i could not forget about Bangkok. There's just so many. I will try to write them down now as i remember them.

1. Killer Streets

I can never forget waking up in the morning. Yes, i was a morning person in Bangkok; wrapping my neck with a borrowed towel, going downstairs and trying to cross the busy street to buy myself at 7-11 the best Milo mix i've tasted, and biggie size, too. But before you do that, you have to master crossing the streets. You have to look at your left and then your right. Cars just pass by you like craaaazy. At first it took me 10+ minutes to cross the street, eventually i learned the trick. It's either you have a really good timing or you run fast when a car approaches you inches away. Pick one. I chose the latter. It gets you up in the morning though. Now, i'm looking forward to Saigon in Vietnam.

2. What a Show
I can never forget being seen butt naked by Swedish girls. It was embarrassing! I was about to go to the bathroom to hit the shower, i was at the terrace smoking some ciggies. I was carrying with me portable speaker then listening to Moby. And then, a girl came up, apparently she sleeps next door. As soon as i saw her, the wrap in my lower body loosened up. Shit... I immediately grabbed the towel but it was a little too late though. It was fun, and i pretended like nothing happened. As soon as my towel dropped, i said hi. Hi from me and from him down there. But it was nothing. She was wondering who was playing all the dope music last night that's why she asked. She says, "Good choice, I like your music a lot!" I never saw her again.

3. Thai Fried Rice

I can never forget the Thai fried rice. I mean, it's not my first time to eat Thai food anywhere. We have it here in Manila. But eating authentic Thai food in Thailand is quite something. The fried rice is just perfection. You can smell the aroma, the explosion of flavors in your mouth and the colors of pepper, onions, eggs, and garlic are all appetizing. And you can watch as they fry it in the pan. You know that it's freshly cooked. I loved every bite of it. 

One time i was with Adam, he ordered for some chicken and plain rice at a small hawker stall near the canal. He asked for the price, and it was only 20 baht. No kiddin'. And then i saw how the Thai lady grabbed Adam's thai bill with her right hand, and used the same hand to get the rice without using any cup or whatsoever and grabbed the chicken with the same hand. That was something. Dirty but Cheap! Would you eat it? He ate it and nothing happened to him.

4. The Attack of Chang

Chang, Chang, Chang, and more Chang!!! I can never forget Chang. It tastes okay as a beer. Others prefer Lao. Not a lot of people i know like Tiger. I find Chang though as the ultimate Thai beer. Drinking big bottles of Chang is the way to go. It's almost the same price as the small bottle, a few bahts more, you can get more drinks right? And San Miguel is so expensive in Bangkok, probably the most expensive beer there. It's even more expensive than Heineken. But you have to get drunk sometimes, right? I wanted to every night! 

5. Shop Till You Drop

I can never forget how shopping is considered a national sport in Bangkok. There are shops everywhere. If i had more money, i could spend $100 and bring home so much stuff it felt like i spent $400. Everything's cheap in Thailand. I wish i could have gone to Chatuchak but i was in Bangkok during the weekday, and you have to go to Chatuchak during the weekends. 

On my last day i bought "pasalubongs" for my family. The stuff they sell is really hip and expensive looking. The t-shirts are the best. You can buy 100 baht tees, and there so many colors and designs to choose from. But somehow, i wasn't up for shopping. My priorities have changed since i backpacked. I don't need them new shirts, i just want to travel with five shirts and two shorts, that's it. Oh and do my own laundry. Well, having someone do you laundry would cost you around 60 baht for 1 and half kilos of soiled dirty clothes.

6. Budget your Money Wisely

I can never forget being too irresponsible with my money. Bangkok is my last stop. And so is my money-- on its way to nothingness. It's almost disheartening as days pass by. But i managed to responsibly budget my money (i can't remember how), and how i did it is still a mystery. All i know is i eat a lot of cup noodles during lunch so i can down 3 big bottles of Chang at night. And i didn't even bother going to the mall. We have it here in Manila anyway. Right now, I'm still learning how to budget my money, and it sure helps being stuck in Bangkok for a few days with less than a thousand baht with you! Take that! But if all else fails, there's always some money transfer via Western Union. Thank goodness you can get money wired to you in just minutes.

7. Hang-out with Cool Friends

I can never forget making good friends in Bangkok. I don't wanna sound sentimental. I promise this won't be dramatic like the drama scripts i write, but it was really nice hanging out with local thais at Sinat. They're pretty friendly. I could stay in Bangkok for one year or more. I could seriously do that.

And Adam who just sent pics of himself and the kids at Pnom Penh. He's staying in Cambodia's version of Smokey Mountain. This guy may be a street punk and says shit a lot but i learned a lot from him. And i have high respects for the dude. See you brotha next year around South East Asia!

8. Thai Girls

Oh yeah. I can never forget about Thai girls. There's something about them. They aren't like Filipinas. They may look a little similar but how they act and talk to people, big difference there. Thais are so smiling. And there's something how they smile and look at you. I think Thai girls rock!

9. Thai Values

Respect. I can never forget about how Thai people pay their respects to the king and queen. I don't wanna dwell with the government. But during my brief stay in Thailand, i realized these people love their king and queen so much, like they love their own father and mother. And that i think is admirable. Of course, taking aside the massive rally that went on in Bangkok's International Airport. I don't write about Politics. It's just not my interest.

It was time for me to head home for now because i miss my parents also. And they've been kind and understanding to let me go and travel just because i want to. 

10. Thailand is like the Philippines

In many aspects, Thailand is the closest to the Philippines. In all of the South East Asian countries that i've been to, i find Thailand, the most similar to the Philippines. The traffic, the lights at night, the malls, the beautiful people, the warm embraces, the friendliness, the food, the dirt and finding beauty in it, even the currency. I always find a very good deal in Thailand because the Philippine Peso and Thai Baht are almost the same. 1 is to 1. But of course, Manila airport is definitely nothing like their airport. Suvarnabhumi International Airport is plain beautiful. Philippines still has a long, long way to go.
But there's one more thing i can never forget about Bangkok. This on my next entry. I am going out tonight with a good friend. Here's to experiencing Manila Nightlife again! I missed it a lot!

What Pinoy Boy Has Been Up To

This is really weird. Writing again now seems like writing for Pinoy Boy Journals for the very first time. I have been postponing my return here because i feel i wasn't ready yet to share with you all my musings. I've been busy with too many things. 

Gladly, it has not been a rough few months, err years for me, nor has it been troublesome in any situation you could think of. Practically speaking, there's nothing wrong with my life. And i feel so blessed to be able to do the things i want to do, buy stuff i've long wanted, and of course travel to places i want to go to. As cliche as it may sound, I've been ticking that bucket list. But there's more to life, really. 

Over the past few months, my itchy feet has lead me to go back to South Korea and Japan, two countries which i will never get tired of going. For one, i love the weather during spring and autumn. I like the crisp cool air of my mornings with a hot cup of cocoa in one hand. It has been almost 2 years since i last smoked a cigarette. And for me, it's one of my greatest achievements. So, enjoying the cool breeze without a ciggie is quite a statement. And my good friend Jihoon has been the best host roaming around Seoul and beyond with me. He's now in South America, as of this writing, fulfilling his lifelong fantasy of circumnavigating the Andes. Awesome!

Most recently also, through the thoughtfulness and generosity of my blogger friends, i was tagged along on a trip to India, a country i have almost forgotten. It has been almost 7 years since i've been to this unbelievably fascinating country. 7 years ago, i traveled around Delhi, Agra, Varanasi and Jaipur. 

A few weeks ago, i flew down south to Kerala and had a grand time with my friends. Kerala is exotic, and the people are really friendly. Somehow, the seaside vibe makes everyone here totally relaxed. Of course, i won't go into detail about the curfew. That's another story altogether.

If you've been reading this blog, you know that i always travel solo. It has been my signature style of traveling. But as years pass by, i realize how it's also nice to travel with the people you share a common interest with, aside from your family. It's quite challenging at first for solo travelers, but in a nutshell, it's an eye-opener. There's more to it, really.

I've read countless number of stories about the author apologizing for the lack of blog posts, and promising to write more. I don't want to promise anything. I'll just keep things simple. This blog will never go away. I will always pay the annual fee for this domain to immortalize all my journeys around the Philippines and beyond. It may not always be updated, but at least it's existing. And whenever i feel like it, i will write. I don't want to be a successful online personality that's overworked and uninspired. 

This is my world. And this is how i choose to see it. Travel with me. This is Pinoy Boy Journals. 

Top Ten Most Unforgettable Travel Adventures in Cambodia

I hope this may spark your curiosity even more to visit this awesome country on your next backpacking trip around South East Asia. I hope in the coming years the country will prosper as a nation, a feat it truly deserves. But on the other hand, i hope westernization will not kill the rich culture of this truly great nation.

I always wear this. A comfortable printed long-sleeves top, slouchy pants cropped and flip flops. Just right outside the central market in PP.
Yes. I think we have the same shirt over. See what i tell you. I look like and dress up like all the Khmer men. Nice!

 1. I look like everbody.
How can you forget a trip to a foreign country where you look and act almost the same as everyone else. I've never been more home as i always say. We, Asians, have a unique cultural look that's exotic, honest and innocent and very young both in appearance and by heart.

If you're still not convinced. I with my friends made a prank. I sat on one of those tuk-tuks and signaled a tuk-tuk ride to all the farangs walking along pub street. See what happened. Here...

Trying to brave the steep stairs of the Angkor Wat. Yes i walked side ways.
Admiring the beauty of this great temple.

2. Going to the Angkor wat
It's not everyday that you walk around "history". The sights, the sounds, the ambiance. It's like walking in the heart of history. Very nice, indeed. I've been amazed by a couple of structures everywhere from Pudong Skyline to the magnificent architectures of hotel casinos in Macau and the unique structures of Kuala Lumpur but visiting the Angkor Wat is unmistakably one of my greatest trips ever. It wouldn't be listed as one of the top places to see before you die for thing.

The best travel buddies, Cara and MM drinking free buckets in Angkor Wat bar, Pub street.

3. The joys and mistakes of traveling
On one of our drinking nights in Siem Reap, a couple of tourists were obviously drunk and were dancing on top of the tables. A six footer lost his balance and fell on my petite friend. Obviously hurt and disappointed, the guy was miserable after. All you can do is charge it to experience. Off we go to party some more. On one of our walks along pub street a couple of young blokes were smoking marijuana. I have no idea regarding the policies, but you don't need those rules to follow one thing whenever you're traveling around... RESPECT

The bus ride inside the Mekong Express Limousine bus. Free snack, hand wipes, and free Khmer music for six hours. Can you handle it? 
Hours to go before i reach my destination. Sunburnt and tired. I need a bed and Angkor beer!

4. Bus rides
I've never been to more bus rides anywhere than my almost month trip around Cambodia. Bus from Saigon to Phnom Penh. Bus from Phnom Penh to Siem Reap. Bus from Siem Reap to Phnom Penh. Bus from Phnom Penh to Sihanoukville. Bus from Sihanoukville to Phnom Penh. And finally Bus from Sihanoukville to Saigon. Wheeeew. Too many bus rides after, i was beginning to make them buses my second home. But believe me when i tell you this, the seats are really comfortable, the driver was driving pretty cool and the air con was max. After a couple of excuses, i always get two seats free.

Arrived at night in Sihanoukville, no other better way to tour the province but that on a speeding motorbike.
Here i am taking a video while the motor is scooting away.

5. Motor rides
Everywhere i go in Phnom Penh, me and my buddy would always scoot around his motor bike in heaps of places. Thanks to Adam for the free ride around the city. For breakfast, for lunch, for dinner, for chilling' at a nightclub, for a private housewarming party, for an afternoon happy hour at the ghetto district. Drunk and motor rides. Cool. But be really cool, you don't want accidents on your trips.

Angkor? Anchor? What's the difference anyway?
You can get cheaper beer via draft and sharing. $.70 cents.

6. Angkor, Anchor
My true best friend and partner in life in Cambodia. In bottles, in pints, don't care about buckets unless they're free. This is what i drink every time i am out. I think the flavor is just right. Not too strong like Chang, not too local like San Miguel. If you ask me about the difference of the two, i still don't know what is. Obviously, i was too drunk to notice. 

Outside the genocide museum. I didn't get inside. Instead i walked around and talked to the people. Good 20 minute conversations. Really cool people!
People in front of the palace. I just wanted to a photo of myself, they were at the back, might as well join in the fun in the picture.
Back to the backstreet boys! hehe

7. Don't judge the book by its cover.
Khmer are honest people. I don't know if i just believe in the goodness of people. But people here are very honest, very sincere, very cordial. On one of our tuk-tuk rides, the business was to give the driver $1 because we bartered for a lower price. When i got to my destination, i gave him $1 more. I mean, what is $1 if you take into consideration the effort of these people really working hard for a buck. And western people are richer than me so the next time you go on trips, make sure to show some love to the people who take you to your destinations, the people you buy your souvenirs from. These people are working really hard to give you the best time in their OWN country. Remember we're just visiting.

Nuff said.
8. The past
I didn't go to the tours. Apart from the reason that i was a bit hung over from last night, i didn't want to leave Cambodia with the impression of its horrible past. The people have suffered so much trauma. And i want to remember Cambodia as the land of really friendly and loving people with a not so good past, but with a keen hopeful eye for the future.

Me with the Israeli Army in Angkor Wat Bar.
Me with Cara and Melissa at a bar right across the Angkor Wat Bar. What's the name of the place again? I think the same bar with the Apsara dinner buffet upstairs.
Yaelle and Matthieu from Switzerland while chillin' in Occheutal Beach Sihanoukville.
MM with the local khmer girl doing the threading on her.
Sylvia, Adam, Moneyman Matt at the balcony in an Expat's housewarming party in Phnom Penh.
The Khmer men in the circle in Siem Reap. Bought a cigarette, won a friend. These guys are my best memory of Siem Reap. Friendship knows no boundaries.

9. Friends you meet along the way
People you meet while waiting for the bus to arrive. People you ask questions to where is a good place to go. People you dance with in a club. People you exchange notes on routes and cheaper accommodations. People you tag along with for a cheaper Tuk-tuk ride. People who take care of you when you're in their turf. People who want to give you the best bang in Cambodia. Thanks to all of you. People who are just in the same time and same place as you are. 

Just holler when you drop by Manila, I'll show you what you're really missing. And for sure, i will see you guys again somewhere Again. Cheers and again Thank you so much.

The little kid playing in the Angkor Wat entrance.
The little girl in the Bayon temple.
The little  musician kid selling souvenirs around the complex.
The hip little girl of Sihanoukville
My brothers. hahaha... these are the kids selling lonely planet counterfeit in a pub in Phnom Penh.
the best photo of Khmer kids, i snapped this one out because they were already smiling at me. these kids are so wonderful to look at.

10. Khmer kids
Ever wonder why Angie and Brad adopted kids in Cambodia? The kids here are the sweetest ever; those innocent eyes, those charming smiles. The way they talk and say "Mister, one dolla'" with the loveliest, sweetest accents. The kids who at a very young age needed to work really hard to help their families. Times are tough in this side of the world. And every dollar received will change their future.